CHRIS PETERSEN needed a bit of convincing in 2007 before he offered a scholarship to Kellen Moore, an undersized, small-school quarterback from south central Washington. So the Boise State coach took one more look at Moore's game tape. "He's not your classic passer," Petersen says. "He's six feet tall. He's lefthanded. But when I studied him, I realized this guy completed a lot of passes."
Petersen also spoke with coaches whose teams had played against Moore, and they confirmed that the state's record holder for career touchdown passes (173) deserved a scholarship. But Petersen still wasn't sold—until Broncos defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, the point man in Moore's recruitment, told Petersen, "If Kellen doesn't pan out for us, I'll give up one scholarship on defense. That's how strongly I feel about him."
Things have more than panned out for Moore and Boise State. As a redshirt freshman in 2008 he won the starting job in preseason camp and went on to pass for 3,486 yards and 25 touchdowns, earning freshman All-America honors while leading the Broncos to the WAC title. With a great portion of the team back (of the 101 players listed on the Poinsettia Bowl roster, 77 were freshmen or sophomores), the Broncos have become the fashionable pick as 2009's most likely BCS buster.
No player will have a larger impact on the team's success than Moore, who at 187 pounds doesn't exactly intimidate defenses. "I have no other athletic ability," he says only half-jokingly. He instead beats teams with his accuracy (his 69.4% completion rate ranked fifth in the nation), savvy (his father, Tom, was one of the most successful high school coaches in Washington) and patience. "He's just as happy hitting a four-yard flat route and letting the guy get a few extra yards as he is to launch it down the field," Petersen says.
During spring practice Moore, who was in the shotgun on about 60% of the snaps last year, spent more time under center in an effort by the coaches to improve a rushing offense that ranked 54th in the country. The staff also spent time filling holes on defense, which was the third toughest to score against (12.6 points per game) but lost six starters.
"If we take care of business like we're supposed to," Petersen says, as Boise State bids for its second BCS bowl in four years, "we'll be playing someone good at the end of the season, in a good location, and all of our guys will have smiles on their faces."
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MOORE WINS WITH HIS ACCURACY, SAVVY AND PATIENCE.
COACH: Chris Petersen (4th year)
2008 RECORD: 12--1 (8--0 in WAC)
FINAL AP RANK: 11
RETURNING STARTERS: 11 Offense 6, Defense 5
12 Miami (Ohio)
18 at Fresno State
26 at Bowling Green
3 UC Davis
14 at Tulsa
24 at Hawaii
31 San Jose State
6 at Louisiana Tech
20 at Utah State
5 New Mexico State
Nothing like opening your bid for a BCS bowl against a loaded Oregon that is no doubt still smarting from the 37--32 loss that you pinned on the Ducks last year. At least the rematch is on the blue field.
The Broncos have won at least 10 games in seven of the last nine years, and since the start of the 2000 season they rank second in Division I-A in victories with 98. Oklahoma leads with 102.
KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT/US PRESSWIRE
After 25 TD passes as a redshirt freshman, Moore's a seasoned soph.